My bus pulled up to a stop this morning and, as happens about 75% of the time on this route, a person in a wheelchair was waiting to board. However, on this particular day, there was already someone in a motorized chair strapped into the available space, and a visually impaired gentleman occupied another seat up front.
"I'm sorry! I can't take you right now," the driver yelled to the person waiting. He then attempted to elaborate.
"I've already got a wheelchair and a guy . . .a guy here who's . . . who's . . . . . . ."
The entire bus fell awkwardly silent as he searched for the word.
Until the visually impaired man simply yelled, "BLIND!"
Amid a burst of laughter from the passengers, the driver apologized. "Right. Sorry, I was looking for something more politically correct."
"That's okay, I don't care. It is what it is."
What a cool guy. He'd named it and owned it, and in the process rescued us all.
Sometimes I think to myself, "Cotonee, life is not like a movie. Movies, in general, are kind of bullshit. You will never bump into a handsome architect on the street and fall in love while you awkwardly pick up the papers you've dropped. You will never encounter a medical examiner who is so obviously bored with his job that he eats snacks around dead bodies. You will never do anything heroic in slow motion." And all this is true. Most days.
But last Friday, I truly had a movie moment, and it occurred in a parking lot downtown. I had just swiped my credit card and purchased an evening's space. As I reached down to retrieve my receipt from the machine, a gust of wind caught it and swept it onto the pavement.
If you're thinking, "What's the big deal?" I would normally agree with you. Except that I needed to display the receipt on my dash to prove I had paid.
I made another grab, but too late. The little slip of paper fluttered onto the trunk of a nearby car. But just as I lunged again, it jumped up on a current of chilly air and began floating above my head.
I don't think I can emphasize this enough. It floated above my head, just out of arm's reach, dancing its way higher and higher in a mischievous October wind vortex that I think was simultaneously giving me the finger and laughing at me.
So there I was, standing alone in a parking lot, staring hopelessly skyward at my receipt, which was seemingly suspended in time. This went on long enough for me to look around for someone, anyone, to verify that this was actually happening.
Finally, the tiny piece of paper caught another current and floated lazily back to the ground. In the middle of the street. Where a truck ran over it. I'm not kidding. A huge truck ran it over, and then the receipt took off again, as though miraculously resurrected by the blustery day.
At this point, I was laughing so hard that I literally had to sit down. The ridiculousness of the whole situation was undeniable (and likely entertaining for anyone driving by). When I could stand again, I briefly contemplated writing a note explaining my predicament and leaving it on my dash. But it seemed a likely story.
In the end, I purchased another evening's worth of parking time. Because okay, Universe, you got me. I guess I owed you that extra $4. If that's the highest price I pay for being an idiot, I'll consider myself lucky.
I was recently made aware of a product called "BIC for Her," which is essentially a pack of thinner ballpoint pens in girly colors that are
inexplicably marketed to those of us with ovaries. I would normally
attempt to say something funny about this, but it's already been done
for me ... many times over. Here are some of my favorite sarcastic
reviews from the Amazon website:
FROM THE WOMEN
Finally! For years I've had to
rely on pencils, or at worst, a twig and some drops of my feminine blood to
write down recipes (the only thing a lady should be writing ever). I had
despaired of ever being able to write down said recipes in a permanent manner,
though my men-folk assured me that I "shouldn't worry yer pretty little
head". But, AT LAST! Bic, the great liberator, has released a womanly pen
that my gentle baby hands can use without fear of unlady-like callouses and
bruises. Thank you, Bic!
I don't know why they didn't put
a clearer warning on the label, they really should have because if you are a
boy and use this pen you put yourself at great risk. My little brother turned
into a unicorn after I lent him one, and my friend told me that a boy in her
class grew fairy wings in the middle of a test.
You can imagine my joy when I found
this pen, made specifically to suit the charming physical frailty and
diminished mental capacity that are the hallmarks of my sex. However, the
packaging is quite unclear and I can't figure out how this pen should be used.
Can I grasp it in my dainty fingers, or do I actually have to hold it in my
I cain't hardly believe you'd
sell this product. It ain't proper! It's a abomination! Wimmen ain't supposed to
write. (My husband done wrote this fer me.)
The ink in my new Bic Lady-Pen is
made of sugar and spice and everything nice, and somehow when I write, my 'i's
are automatically dotted with little hearts. FINALLY a pen that gets me!!!
I was elated to find this
product, but I think it should cost 24% less than Bic for Men to adjust to my
delicate feminine salary.
I will say I was a little
disappointed the first time I used one. They are just a little bit...smaller
than I was expecting? Not that the size of the pen matters. Seriously. BIC
shouldn't feel bad.
If I can't be trusted with my own
uterus, how on earth can I be trusted with a glittery pen?
If I could count that high, I'd
give this product SIX stars.
These pens are the biggest
unicorn assault on unicorn feminism ever!!! I accidentally came across some of
these unicorn pens at a friend's place and tried to write the next section of
my feminist manifesto. I realized these unicorn pens unicorn censored each time
I tried to write a swear word and replaced it with 'unicorn'. Unicorn this!!!!
This is the biggest unicorn assault on women ever! Unicorn unicorn unicorn!
Some days my creative juices flow
heavier than others. You should therefor consider `light, medium` and 'heavy'
ink flow options.
A recent study showed women using
the Bic for Her pens were actually faking their writing 80% of the time.
AND NOW, THE MEN WEIGH IN
This make me mad How come you not
make pen, too, for me, me man, me? Me man! MAN! No pen, no man pen for man!
Ugh! Me can make, work pen, pen work make letter TOO. Not lady alone! You make inaccessible,
neutered pen, for eunuchs and androids, and lady pen, make lady-parts pen for
princess, princess, but you, why you, no make pen for UGHH YOU NO MAKE MAN PEN!
MAKE ME MAD INSTEAD! WHEN DAWN OF MAN TO COME!!!
I bought these pens for my wife.
I assumed they would be safe for her since they are specifically for ladies but
she used these for no more than two days before she sprained her uterus.
As a guy I like this pen for 28
letters, but then it puts in a period and I can't touch it for a week.
I am so amazed that BIC is making
this. The last thing we need are women writers. Pens were made for men. Hell,
we're the ones with a PENis. If a woman has something to say, tell a man, if
its important enough to remember, we will write it down for you. That's the way
its always been, and that's the way it should stay.
I purchased a set of Bic LadyPens
for one of my wives (the one who knows how to write), using my own funds. (This
should not come as a surprise, as women should not be allowed to come into
contact with currency; their menstrual cycles will curse it and make it lose
value.) However, I found that,
when given these pens, she began writing more frequently and more fervently.
Soon, she was corresponding with other women (via the Postal Service, which,
unbeknownst to me, now also accepts pieces of mail from women). Gradually, more
and more radical ideas entered her mind. Sure, it started with her asking for
simple things like a mortar and pestle (until now, my wives had ground spices
with their knuckles), but before I knew it she was demanding to be shod! I
blame the pens - clearly they were the catalyst for her awakening! I am currently
away on business (I will be delivering an address to a large convention in
Tampa this week), and I am honestly quite vexed about the state of my homestead
HULK NEED PEN WRITE NOTE. HULK
ONLY FIND BIC FOR HER. HULK SMASH PEN! HULK SAD. HULK DEMAND BIC FOR HIM.
A few months ago, my sister finally purchased something she'd been saving for: a Coach purse. She got a good deal on it but was dismayed when it got slightly dirtied on its first outing. When telling me this over the phone, she concluded that perhaps it was something to be used only on special occasions.
ME: "You could lock it up in a hermetically sealed vault and only bring it out once a year."
HER: "Or I could build a shrine to it."
ME: "Maybe an altar."
HER: "Yes! And I could offer up lesser-quality purses to it. Like Nine West."
I had the pleasure of going to the DMV last week to renew my driver's license. I'm pretty sure I took a picture that makes me look even more stoned than I looked four years ago, but at least this time I wasn't drawn into a fruitless argument with the woman behind the counter about which county I live in. For the record, lady, it's Ramsey, according to the laws of maps. But you go ahead and put Anoka on there if you wish. Also for the record, I was not actually stoned.
But it reminded me of a story from one of my friends, who found herself waiting at the DMV several months ago. One of her kids occupied the time by playing games with another little boy whose parents were also waiting in line.
At one point, my friend's son ran up to her and asked what the other boy's name was.
"I don't know, honey. Why don't you ask him?" she responded.
Her son ran back over to the boy, who happened to be black, and they appeared to exchange introductions.
Her son then turned, beaming, and yelled across the room for everyone to hear, "Chocolate Alex! His name is Chocolate Alex!"
Last night I went to Culver's to get dessert with a friend. While waiting in line for my frozen custard, I happened to look over at some coloring contest entries hanging on the wall. It struck me that there was a considerable amount of attitude on display in addition to mad Crayola skills. Check out how the "Age" blank was filled in on three of them:
Fair enough, Lauren.
You know what happens when you assume, don't you, Sydney?
It's been quite a while since I had an eventful bus ride. But the other morning, about twenty minutes into my trip, a man hopped on board and immediately began talking about Jesus. I'm not sure if only crazy people talk about the Lord in public, or if we automatically brand someone as crazy simply BECAUSE they talk about the Lord in public. It's probably a mix of both. In any case, I think it's great if you have a personal relationship with Jesus, but shouting about it typically makes everyone else uncomfortable.
Anyway, the driver had allowed this man to ride without paying, which was evidently a cause for great (and vocal) celebration. At the next stop, a middle-aged woman who looked like she had lived pretty damn hard stepped on. After listening to the man's high praise for his divine Metro Transit intervention, she said that she thought it was great to be thankful, and that she woke up every day with gratitude to Jesus.
This, I thought, was a very nice comment, and I'll admit I started feeling a little warm and fuzzy. Then the following exchange began.
MAN: "Yep, the Lord has helped me through some tough times. Tough times."
WOMAN: "I hear you."
MAN: "I mean really tough times."
WOMAN: "Oh, I know about tough times."
ME: (Oh my God, they're going to try to one-up each other. Thank you, Jesus!)
MAN: "Yeah, I been through a lot."
WOMAN: "I have, too."
MAN: "Lost a lot of people."
WOMAN: "Me, too."
MAN: "I mean, I been to prison."
WOMAN: "I been to prison, too."
At this point, I feel like the woman saw where this was going and decided the gloves were off.
WOMAN: "I even been a prostitute!"
Complete silence on the bus for about ten long seconds.
WOMAN: (yelling to all passengers) "YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT! I DON'T CARE WHO HEARS IT!"
To: Anything with more than two legs that lives in my apartment. Re: The recent tiny murder.
A most unfortunate incident occurred this evening that necessitates me writing this letter in the middle of the night.
Look, you know me. We've been sharing this space for, let's face it, probably your entire life cycle. So you're likely aware that from midnight until 7:30 a.m., I'm not to be disturbed.
And yet here I am, wide awake at 4:00, after being forced not only out of sorely-needed slumber but also to drop the hammer on one of your members. Or the shoe, as the case may be.
I took no joy in this act, largely because it stemmed from a direct violation of Rule #1. Had it been a lesser infraction, the punishment may have been less severe. As you know, I'm on record as having ignored Rule #2 on occasion, which takes considerable restraint.
If, for some reason, the rules have not been made abundantly clear, let me reiterate.
Rule #2: I can never see you.
Rule #1: You can never be in my bed.
This is the only foundation upon which our two species can ever peacefully coexist.
Now, I want to be magnanimous. I really do. We've all got lives to live, andnobody's perfect. But I pay the rent up in this bitch. And that means, above all else, no spiders in my sheets.
The point is, when the rules are so flagrantly disregarded, you leave me no choice. It is imperative that you understand one thing. When Rule #1 is disobeyed, NO QUARTER WILL BE GIVEN.
For the sake of continued good relations, I will chalk this up to an isolated incident and assume that the recently deceased was a rogue agent acting alone, perhaps with suicidal rather than malicious intent.
I am also willing to overlook the bite I recently (and I don't think coincidentally) sustained on my left calf. Should this injury continue to worsen or result in lasting bodily harm, all future communications will be conducted through my exterminator.
A studio apartment is typically suited for one occupant. But Dylan Baumann has been forced to coexist with about 40 lodgers in his small living space in Omaha, Nebraska. Even worse, the new tenants are potentially deadly recluse spiders.Still, even with the near-constant threat of venomous spider bites, Baumann has decided to stay in his apartment until his lease is up in September.
"It's mainly just learning to cope with them," he said. "Pushing your bed away from the wall, pulling out your bed skirt, making sure nothing is touching the walls, shaking off your clothes before you put them on, after you get out of the shower, shake out your towel, knock out your shoes at night. It's just kind of learning to not get bit."
The two absolute best comments left by readers:
1) here's what you do. take shoe in hand, squash spider. repeat 39 times.
2) Does anyone else find it odd that so many recluse spiders live together?
Harvey ran his hands over the words several times, just to
make sure they were real.Cellar door.Did it qualify as vandalism if it contained
no profanities and made no sense? He pictured the time it would have taken
someone, lying in the dirt, to etch each letter into the stone.It certainly hadn’t been a group of slightly bored
gangbangers who’d gotten pissed and decided to leave their mark with
painstakingly tedious gravesite graffiti.
There had to be more. Pulling aside the small tufts of grass
at the base of the headstone, he scanned each inch.Bingo.At the very edge was a small arrow pointing to the right.
He carefully surveyed everything in that direction. There
was nothing. Not a tree, not another grave, not a suspicious clump of sod
suggesting that something had been either deposited or removed. There was only
the hill and the luminous reflection of a now-brutal midday sun off the town
He rocked back on his haunches, the stitches in his pants
screaming.Was it a prank? A few furtive
glances assured him that he was, as usual, alone, free to talk or weep or offer
any manner of confession to the deceased without judgment. The wind seemed to
quicken with his breath.
Harvey was not a learned man. He didn’t claim to be an
expert in anything or even a dilettante. He had a particular set of skills that
earned him a decent living, one of which was being able to follow directions. So
the arrow seemed simple enough.
Sweat was pouring off his face by the time he coasted back
into town. Once there, however, he found himself unsure where to begin. A
search of cellar doors could take ages in a community established in the 18th
century. After wheezing a few moments in a patch of shade, he decided there was
only one place to go.
The librarian was a stout woman with a lisp who was all
“Thellar door, hmmm?”
She accepted the challenge as seriously and humbly as if he’d
presented her with frankincense and myrrh instead of an apparently amorphous
phrase that was potentially total bullshit.
“I’ll be right back.”
Harvey stretched his arms across the large table and waited,
content to feel the cool wood through his damp shirtsleeves. Because he also put
his head down, he didn’t see the tall Rastafarian approach. He heard only the
soft clink of the man’s necklace, a colorful mix of beads and shells.
Chiquita seemed like the perfect pet name for his late wife (as she was rather diminutive), but the general public understood that it was bestowed in the same spirit as calling a hefty man Slim. Although she may have been tiny, her temper was larger than life. Passionate and volatile, she was prone to dramatic outbursts and fits of apoplectic rage, one of which had proven quite literal and left Harvey a widower three years earlier.
There had been few attendees at her funeral, and no one had anything especially glowing to say. Even the priest officiating fought the urge to describe her as “eight feet of trouble in a five foot body,” and he’d known her since her catechumenate.
Harvey, for his part, found Chiquita exciting. He rode out her wild mood swings as others might ride a roller coaster – both hands in the air and screaming. He emerged from each encounter disheveled and perhaps a bit dizzy, but thrilled.
He assumed she took equal joy in their exchanges, though he never asked directly. She could unleash a plethora of insults at the slightest provocation. Rather than calling him a pain in the ass, she referred to him as a hemorrhoid that she simply could not get rid of. She often hurled this invective at him when they were running errands together in town. Believing her to be facetious, Harvey seemed oblivious to the stares.
Most people who knew her heaved a collective, albeit guilty, sigh of relief when this nefarious little woman went into the ground. The more immediate neighbors gave silent thanks for an end to the frequent late-night caterwauling. And Harvey, bereft of any dynamic influences, settled into a predictable life free of both implied vulgarities and companionship.
He visited her monthly, without fail. While others seemed more than willing to forget her, Harvey worked hard to remember. He found it comforting to see her name etched carefully into the headstone. “Beloved wife” proved that she had, in fact, walked next to him for a time; he liked to trace the words before leaving.
On this visit, however, his finger encountered a new pattern of grooves. Scratched faintly into the stone just below the dates, barely legible, were two words: "cellar door."
When Harvey Branagh left his house that day, he had no idea that
he would never return. Nothing about the morning’s events indicated that things
would be any different than usual.
He woke before his alarm, showered, shaved,
fixed himself an omelet and ate it standing over the stove. Another person
might have considered cooking in the nude a tad dangerous, but he was careful.
It was eggs and vegetables, after all, not weld spatter. And if a neighborhood stalker wanted so badly to see his junk, he supposed he oughtn't disappoint.
He didn’t squeeze into his suit until the last possible
minute. Although threadbare and a bit snug, it matched his shiny pompadour as
woefully out of date. People passing him on the street couldn’t tell whether he
was being ironic or simply behind the times, but he gave the impression that he
thought he looked rather fantastic.
Well, there was something to be said for self-confidence.
You’d think that a large, impressively coiffed man the wrong
side of 50 grinding up a hill on a 10-speed bike might draw some attention, but
you’d be wrong. Passersby witnessing this strenuous effort were accustomed to the spectacle. It was the first of the month.
He was red-faced and huffing when he reached the top. To his
eternal relief, the ground leveled just as he felt his heart would burst from
his chest. He knew he was not the picture of health. His doctor, brandishing a
sphygmomanometer, had recently informed him that he should be wary of exerting
himself this way. Regular, low-impact exercise was the first step, he’d said.
Start slow, he’d said. But he had to press on. He was late.
After another mile and a quarter, the cemetery slid into view. He wound down a narrow path, his tires slotting expertly into the grooves they'd worn in the grass.
Though the grounds were overgrown with weeds, there was one well-tended headstone in the northeast corner. The plastic flowers lent a splash of color by day, and the solar landscape lights bathed the plot in a soft, luminescent glow at night. He'd stayed till dark after he installed them, just to make sure.
Leaning his bike carefully against a nearby tree, Harvey paused to collect himself. Hypothetically, this should be getting easier, not harder. He pressed his palm onto the warm granite.
All right, Nature. I get it. Perhaps I'm not spending enough time with you, and you feel the need to come to me. Because as I was unloading groceries from my car last week, I happened to look up and see a wasp's nest hanging inside my trunk lid. Not cool, Nature. Not cool.
There was a single wasp perched on the baseball-sized structure. I immediately froze. I looked at it. It looked at me. And I know we were thinking the exact same thing:
"This shit just got real."
But I still had perishables to unpack, so I closed my trunk and went inside. I then placed a call to my dad, a veteran of many wasp battles, to inquire about an appropriate plan of attack. Upon hearing my predicament, he laughed for a full minute. Then we strategized.
Having been stung before, I wasn't terribly worried about anaphylactic shock. But I did know that that little sucker was capable of stinging me multiple times, and I didn't know if he had friends. I wanted to end the night after sustaining the fewest injuries possible (which I think is a good aim every day).
So the second time I popped the trunk, I did so with a can of insecticide in one hand. I was all, "I'm here to unload groceries and kick ass. And I'm all outta groceries."
And the wasp was all ... dead. It was a bit anticlimactic, really. I grabbed an old license plate, flipped the nest out of the trunk, and then stomped on it for good measure.
When I told my sister this story, she said, "Aren't you afraid there will be hornets in your car now?"
Well, I wasn't . . . until she said that. Perhaps I'll just have to drive around with the windows down more often. Let a bit of nature in. And, if that little bit of nature is airborne and angry and full of poison, maybe let it out.
This spring, I had the great misfortune to see a mother duck lead her ten chicks across a parking lot and into a picturesque little pond not far from my apartment.
I say misfortune because, as I watched their tiny, fuzzy bodies plunk one by one into the water, I knew I would have to closely monitor this family all summer long. They had adopted me, and they didn't even realize it.
So every week I would pause briefly on a bench after work and watch them paddle around, cheep-cheeping and sticking their little butts in the air as they dove and splashed. And I would conduct a head count, just to make sure there were still ten, none of them having been nabbed by a predator or squashed by a passing car.
When I mentioned this compulsion to keep tabs on the ducks to one of my coworkers, he demanded to know why these animals were so irresistible. But you can't really explain that level of cuteness. So he posed a Sophie's choice question purely out of deviousness. "Okay then, would you rather lose one of the ducklings, or have a baby fox starve to death?"
After some horrified thought, I finally had to admit, "Well, I guess ten is kind of an embarrassment of riches."
I felt a bit guilty about that answer. Until a few nights later when, driving home from this same coworker's house, I almost hit a fox that darted across the road. But I didn't. I spared him. So I believe I earned the right to keep my fine-feathered family intact.
They're so grown up now that I can't tell which are my original ducklings and which are just your run-of-the-mill Mallards. But sometimes I wonder if they recognize me, ever watchful. #11.
This year, I'd hoped to avoid the responsibility of worrying about yet another family. So you can imagine my consternation when I walked out of my building last week and saw this:
Last week I had the opportunity to visit Sedona, AZ, where I spent a lovely afternoon eating and browsing cute little shops with my family. What I didn't know was that Sedona is also home to several energy centers, or "vortexes," which are supposed to be spiritual power centers. While I won't comment on the validity of this notion, I will post the picture I took in a gas station bathroom. It seems to express their views quite clearly.
I'm growing increasingly aware of the need to avoid judging books by their covers.
I used to ride the bus with a rather large man who would sit and talk with the bus driver for the entire trip, trading lines from movies and comedy specials. If I hadn't heard him joking around, I might have been terrified by the size and sound of this guy. He had one of the deepest, most sonorous voices I've ever heard. Everything about him seemed scary and powerful . . . until he told the following story.
Several years ago, he was awakened in the middle of the night by some noises on his front lawn. When he looked out the window, he saw a group of teenagers toilet papering his house. Knowing that they were his son's classmates, he decided to give them a scare.
He exploded out the front door in his pajamas, bellowing like a crazy person. When the kids piled into a van and took off, he chased them down the street. He could hear screams from inside the vehicle: "Darth Vader's gonna kill us!"
Finally, the van managed to outdistance him, and the frightened teenagers escaped into the night. That was when he realized that he'd rushed outside with no shoes on. And, because he hated being barefoot, he was forced to hop gingerly back to his house. "Imagine what those kids would have thought," he laughed, "Seeing Darth Vader tiptoeing down the street!"
Of course, this was also the guy who said that, after watching the movie Candyman, he was huddled in his bed with "all the lights in the house on AND a flashlight."
I recently read an article online about the number one thing that men should never say to women during an argument. The answer came as no surprise: "Calm down." I can think of few things more infuriating in an already tense situation. So that's not the interesting part.
When I scrolled down to read the comments on the article (manifested as ranting in varying degrees of coherence as always), I saw numerous other suggestions for taboo phrases. And then I came across this comment: "Don't ever tell a man he has a tiny ***er. That can stay with them for the rest of their nature lives."
What caught my eye wasn't the typo in the second sentence, though I enjoyed it. The interesting part was the number of asterisks in the self-censored word.
Because I spend my days paying attention to details like these, I was soon stymied. It couldn't be wiener or pecker. Too many letters. Maybe it wasn't dirty after all. Hmmm. What do men have that they don't want in a small size? Diner? Anger? Nope. Too abstract. Buyer? Biker? No, size wouldn't matter. Boxer? Maybe, if it's referring to underwear.
And then it hit me. I had been overlooking one of the most out-of-date, hilarious examples of sexual innuendo (and in one case the oddly acceptable name of a teenaged boy's best friend on an 80s sitcom). Boner. Of course!
When I was teaching in Japan, I had to conduct a writing class that essentially boiled down to me coming up with a topic and the kids writing a minimum of ten sentences in English about it. One of my students, a 16-year-old boy, always wrote about John Lennon. It didn't matter what the assignment was ... he worked John Lennon in without fail.
For one particular paper, I asked the students to tell me which super power they would like to have and why. As a bonus, this kid also illustrated his essays. This was my favorite drawing ever:
Last year, just before St. Paddy's Day, I walked out of my apartment to find this sign taped to the building's main entrance. While I think it was a helpful warning, I'm not sure what disturbed me most:
1. That the party was slated to last exactly 11.5 hours.
2. That "St. Patrick's Day" was in quotes.
3. The use of the word "probably."
Wonder if any notices will be posted this year . . .
This weekend, a friend was telling me that she's frequently out of the loop when it comes to knowing certain slang terms. While her husband claimed that he found this endearingly innocent, my friend lamented that she sometimes embarrasses herself by being behind the times. Case in point: she once loudly announced in mixed company that she didn't understand what "twat" meant.
To help her out, her husband and I ran down a list of euphemisms that she should be familiar with. I'm not sure whether that speaks volumes to our worldliness or to our trashy viewing habits/acquaintances, but in the end, I think it's knowledge worth having.
A couple years ago, my mom emailed me a similar question. This was back in the early days of the conservative trainwreck known as the Tea Party, before they had legitimized their batshit craziness and were commonly referred to as "tea baggers."
My mom had heard on TV that "tea bagging" was actually a sexual term, and she wanted to make sure she didn't use it improperly. Inexplicably, her first fact-finding mission sent her directly to me.
What I wanted to write back was "Mom, this is what the internet is for." Because it is. The Web exists largely to spare us the indignity of asking for enlightenment about potentially embarrassing things. However, I had a small panic attack when I imagined the search results that might populate if my mother googled "tea bagging." There might be pop-ups. There might be videos.
When I was a kid, my parents managed to avoid having "the talk" with me by leaving an educational book about sex outside my bedroom door. So I did what any loving daughter would. I sent her the link to the Wikipedia page.
Every so often, I'm an unwilling participant in the phenomenon that I refer to as the Unisex Name Drop. What is this intriguingly named yet undeniably real event? Here's an example:
I'm ready to pay for something at a store or a restaurant, and the cashier looks down at my credit card and cannot resist commenting that he or she has a family member or a friend or an ex named Courtney. Of course, the Courtney they know is a guy, which makes them chuckle good-naturedly while they relate this story.
I realize that the person is probably just trying to make small talk while waiting for me to sign a receipt, but I'm absolutely baffled regarding how I'm expected to respond. There's nowhere to go from "I know a man with that name." I usually end up forcing a polite smile and saying something like, "Yeah? That's interesting."
But you know what? It's really not. People who have unisex names (even rarely used ones like mine) are fully aware that there are human beings of the opposite gender running around with the same moniker. And when you bring it up, it's awkward. There's nothing relevant to say because it's a completely irrelevant comment.
Unless, like me, they're sometimes mistaken for the opposite gender by myopic people who can't understand that some women have short hair and are 5'10". In that case, it's a bit of an insult, since you seem to be comparing us to your nephew or your male cousin or your brother's best friend.
If you're ever tempted to broach this topic with a complete stranger, may I suggest using any one of the following phrases instead: 1) "That's a nice name." 2) "Have a nice day." 3) Nothing at all.
I once asked a friend what he thought I should say in these scenarios, and he gave me the most hilarious quip I could have wished for. I have it in reserve as my standard response.
A couple weeks ago, I met some friends (a husband and wife) for dinner and a movie at a local mall. As I was walking in from the parking lot, I saw the following scrap of paper lying on the sidewalk. Since it featured profanity, of course I picked it up.
It made me laugh, but the content was a bit mystifying. When I got inside, the wife was standing outside the restaurant, saying we had just a short wait and her husband had gone to buy the movie tickets. I pulled out the note to get her assessment, and she immediately commented that perhaps someone had stuck it on a car windshield as a rebuke for bad parking.
She then told me that she'd given her husband a hard time for a haphazard parking job that very evening.
I don't know which of us had the brainstorm, since it's hard to pinpoint the origin of evil schemes when this much serendipity is involved. Suffice it to say that, when we sat down to eat, I presented the note to her husband, telling him I had parked near them and found it on their car.
I don't regret it. What I do regret is not having my phone out to capture his reaction on video. He stared first at the note, then at me, then back at the note, then at his wife, mouth agape, completely and utterly flabbergasted.
I think his wife might have kept him going all night with tongue-in-cheek variations on "I told you so," but I burst out laughing and quickly confessed. I couldn't let the poor guy think that retribution was so impossibly swift, or quite so aligned with his wife's views. That would have made me the asshole.
I wrote this story in third or fourth grade. It's fairly self-explanatory, but I would like to say three things. 1) Yes, I'm a super huge nerd. 2) Trischoolatops High would make a great band name. 3) I think I drew some pretty kickass punk dinosaurs toward the end. Thank you.
So I went to the movies on Saturday night, and naturally I had my phone silenced during the film. This puts me in stark contrast to the guy next to me, who started getting an alert about 20 minutes from the end of the picture that kept repeating about every three minutes. I'm not sure how long I let this continue before I turned and whispered, "COULD YOU PUT THAT AWAY?!" But I digress.
What I really want to talk about is the voicemail I had waiting for me when I came out of the theater. It was from a St. Paul number that I didn't recognize, and it went like this . . .
INEBRIATED MAN: Hey, Steve, give me a call.
OK, first of all, my outgoing message clearly says, "Hi, this is Courtney. Leave me a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can." But again, inebriated.
INEBRIATED MAN: I'm extremely drunk.
INEBRIATED MAN: I went to Francisco's house, and he tried to get me drunk. You won't believe it.
Excuse me, tried? He seems to have been wildly successful. And yes, we do believe it.
INEBRIATED MAN: He's really [mumbles] for me.
I've listened to this message about 20 times, and the best I can make out is "He's really got a thing for me." Which might explain the next sentence.
INEBRIATED MAN: Oh, I will never go again to his house. Believe me.
Dude, we believe you. (How incredulous is Steve, typically?)
INEBRIATED MAN: Never . . . never . . . never.
Probably a good idea. Though the emphatic repetition leads me to believe some things may have happened that you're not particularly proud of.
INEBRIATED MAN: Okay. Call me later, okay?
I do want to call this guy later. Just to check up on him. Just to let him know that his intoxicated ramblings reached across time and space (or across Verizon's network, which is equally complicated) to find me, and that I will cherish this random message long after Francisco has lost interest. It's the least I can do.
Sometimes, I'm forced to ask myself serious questions. It's not something I particularly enjoy, but I often find it cannot be avoided. Recently, I had to ask a question that, if you're over 30, may also have occurred to you: "Am I just getting old, or is the casual nature of electronic conversation reaching a level that simply spits in the face of common decency?"
Even if you've never considered it in quite those terms, you know what I'm talking about. And if not, here's an example of an email exchange I had with a representative at a large financial institution. It's verbatim.
ME: Hi there. I talked briefly with [teller name] last week when depositing a check into my business account, and she mentioned that my business could upgrade to an account that would not charge a monthly service fee. Is there a minimum balance we would need to maintain? Please let me know. Thanks!
This, I feel, was an appropriately crafted query with one basic question.
REP: Hi I just get your email let me know when you wan come and set down whit me so we can see what options we have for u
I'd just like to point out that this was an official employee of the bank, and not some teenager who wandered in off the street and mistakenly assumed she was tweeting. This person was, for all intents and purposes, the face of the company, which presumably wanted to entice me to put even more of my hard-earned money into its hands.
ME: I don't have a lot of time during work hours, but I could do 15-20 minutes on Friday if you're available.
REP: What time so I can ready for u
What I should have done at this point was call "game over" after the refusal to spell out three-letter words or to use punctuation of any kind. But I gave her one more shot, partly because I kind of wanted to meet her face-to-face out of sheer curiosity.
ME: How about 11:00?
REP: Hi can you meet me at 12:00pm I have
And that was the end of the message. No joke. Strike three. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never know exactly what her problem was. Instead, I shot a message to the online customer rep and had my issue resolved within 24 hours. Two emails, complete with real sentences!
To the rep, I sent one final reply, in which I delicately explained that I would not be meeting with her, largely due to the confusing and incomplete nature of her communication and suggesting that she strive to be more professional in the future. I wasn't mean, but I think some constructive feedback was needed. The next person might not be so accommodating.
Then again, the next person might have been a teenager who wandered in out of the Twitterverse and was delighted by the refreshingly down-to-earth "communication." If you can call it that.
It somehow comforts me to know that, at about this time 26 years ago, my mother was attempting to trick me into taking medication. It may interest you to know that she did not abandon these attempts, as I distinctly recall a similar betrayal involving a bowl of icky-tasting "applesauce." Mom, if our poodle could lick off all the peanut butter and spit out the heartworm pill, I'm pretty sure your 7-year-old could detect acetaminophen in her favorite foods.
One one of my recent visits to get my hair cut, there was a young guy in the chair behind me who came in with a special request. He was going to be starring in a play, and he needed his hair cut appropriately for the role. His stylist was the most earnest and possibly most oblivious woman I've ever heard try to carry on a conversation. She desperately wanted to participate in a meaningful dialogue, but she jumped to conclusions so quickly that it sounded like this:
MAN: "I'm in this play . . ."
STYLIST: "Ohhhhh, so like Shakespeare."
MAN: "No, this production is set in the Old West, and . . ."
STYLIST: "So you're looking for like a 1920s thing."
MAN: "I think more like the 1890s, but . . ."
STYLIST: "Ohhhhh, okay. Can you imagine how gross and dirty people's hair was back then? I suppose it doesn't matter much cuz you'll be wearing a cowboy hat."
MAN: "Well, actually, my character's from the city. The Ricochet Kid."
MAN: "I'm known for being able to shoot people by bouncing bullets off of things."
STYLIST: "Ohhhhhhhhhh. So like The Matrix."
MAN: (sigh) "Not exactly."
At this point my stylist stopped snipping away because we both had the giggles. I'm lucky I didn't lose an ear.
Here we are
at the start of a new year, and I've already broken my first resolution:
to cease blog posting in favor of spending time on a more substantial
writing project. (Which is good news if you're a regular reader and bad
news if you're my as-yet-imaginary future novel).
initially thought it would be a great idea to take a break, partly
because, even though I didn't quite manage 100 posts last year, it
sometimes felt like a bit of a chore to put my storytelling muscles to
work without knowing who exactly (if anyone) was reading and/or
appreciating it. I know that sounds lame. I should be writing simply for
writing's sake, yes? Putting myself out there, throwing words together with reckless abandon
for the sheer joy of communication, sustained only by my
personal pride in a job well done (or so I hope).
no matter what we do, we like to have some way to measure our progress.
Not necessarily to determine whether we've been "successful," but at
least to know that our efforts are worthwhile. I don't think it's too awfully self-centered to admit that everyone needs a little validation here and there.
But how much is enough? Ay, there's the rub. Is it enough if even one
person's day is brightened by something ridiculous I decide to type into
this glowing box? After all, isn't it a little bit of a miracle that
anyone is even remotely interested in something I have to say in the
Yes, it is. So, I decided to compromise, and I made two new resolutions.
First, to get over myself. Second, to post once a week. That way, my
storytelling muscles still get a workout, but I can focus the other days
on the as-yet-unnamed literary experiment. Sounds simple enough. But
then again, so did setting up the wireless printer that I bought my
parents for Christmas. And we all know how that turned out.